Singer John Watterson is not in the business of imitation – his act as Fake Thackray serves as a peephole into the life of a complex bard steeped in mystery and wonder.
No doubt, his tribute to Jake Thackray, which is coming to Barnoldswick this month, is about capturing the poetic soul of the man.
After all, what first drew him in was his “brilliant use of the English language”.
“The songs are beautifully written poems capturing pictures of reality,” John said, “so carefully crafted and funny. They’re peculiar, not normal love songs. Subjects include a transvestite nun and a rebellious cockrill.”
He captures a storytelling-style modelled on French singer-songwriters like Georges Brassens: a direct handling of subject matters, twisted to focus on English issues.
“Jake was a very religious man so many of his songs have morals and a message,” John said.
“He wrote for Yorkshire and never talked down to people but you have to work hard to understand his music. Some tracks have Latin and testing vocabulary – he puts his messages across without dumbing them down.”
The musician has been performing as Fake Thackray for four years. Rather than a direct impersonation, John’s act is a celebration of Jake’s records.
“I hope the way I perform them allows people not to worry about how closely I imitate him but to relax and enjoy the songs.
“Without lecturing, I highlight the subtleties and context of the tracks and offer snippets of his life.”
John will also offer exclusive access to lost tracks.
Among some of his biggest fans are members of Jake’s family, who have backed him ever since he performed the bard’s songs at his memorial service.
“It was my scariest gig. Three of his sons were there. If that evening hadn’t gone well, I wouldn’t have carried on.”
Fortunately, they gave him their blessing in the best way they knew how: by signing the guitar used at the service.
And now the singer is channelling Jake’s poetic spirit by teaming up with the star’s oldest son to write the first ever biography of the Yorkshire musician.
“Jake wasn’t interested in fame or accolades. His family is the same and doesn’t get involved in interviews. It’s taken a long time to get to know some of them. No-one has had access to this information before and never will again. It’s been a real privilege.”
Piercing that mystery, the Barlick gig will burst with humour and dynamic lyrics, offering keyholes into a thoughtful and exquisite world.
John will perform at Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre on Thursday, with doors opening at 7-30pm. To book tickets, please see www.barnoldswickmusicandartscentre.com
For more information, please visit www.fakethackray.com